Coming directly from his club team's gritty performance in Los Angeles, Kansas City Wizards forward Josh Wolff is ready to leave it all on the field for his country.
The speedy and crafty Wolff has been an integral part of the success of the U.S. national team program over the past four years. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Wolff was a mainstay, scoring two goals in helping the USA to a best ever fourth-place finish. And after earning man of the match honors for his performance in a key 2-0 World Cup qualifying triumph over Mexico in the run-in to Korea/Japan 2002 where he scored a goal and an assist, Wolff provided the final ball to Brian McBride who struck the game-winner against Mexico in the World Cup quarterfinal in Korea.
Unfortunately, Wolff has not been available for his country as much as he would like during the current semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying matches for Germany 2006 due to an inflamed knee.
"I've missed a lot, so I'm glad I'm back in from injuries and what not," said Wolff, who last played for the U.S. against Mexico in a friendly in Dallas on March 28.
"Anytime you get an opportunity to play for your country is a pretty great opportunity. Now I just have to get on the field and help the team win some games, get some points, and move through this qualifying phase," said Wolff, who has won six caps with the senior national team while tallying six goals.
The U.S. leads its qualifying group at this stage and is looking to seal their fate with two positive results Saturday at El Salvador and Wednesday at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. against Panama. The USA's situation mirrors the situation Wolff and the Wizards have been facing for a few matches now as they look to win the Western Conference of Major League Soccer. Wolff plans to bring the tenacity and focus typical of his Wizards to the national team.
"I want to bring a lot of effort and energy. Obviously, when you play with the national team, that's how we try to play -- put a lot of pressure on the other team and get our chances and opportunities that way, not allow them to play," Wolff said.
As always, an away match in the CONCACAF region is no sure thing. Wolff expects a match similar to the Wizards' 1-1 tie in Los Angeles last Saturday.
"We certainly took it on the chin for about the first 25 or 30 minutes, but we got through it. Perhaps it wasn't a beautiful game, but in the end we got a very important point. That's kind of what it's like going on the road; you do what you can to get points. It might not be pretty, but in the end it's about getting results," Wolff said, echoing the mantra of U.S. manager Bruce Arena.
The U.S.'s performances, though good enough to put them on top, have been less than dominating recently. But Wolff said that has been a topic of discussion with the national team camp.
"Most importantly, the guys and the coaching staff were just discussing, is to put a better effort in over 90 minutes," he said.
Wolff is ready to fill whatever role he is put into, he said, and that physically he up to the demands of both club and country.
"[The knee is] strong. At the end of the year, I think everybody's body is sore and aching a bit, but you try to get through it," Wolff said. "Am I as fresh as I was in March and April? No. But at this point, you've got to try to put everything behind you and get geared up for the game as much as you can; it shouldn't take much. I'm pretty happy with where I am physically, but it could always be better."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Soccer or its clubs.